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Water Today Title December 13, 2018

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Update 2018/11/23
First Nation Water


HOW THE NORTHWEST TERRITORIES FUNDS FIRE SAFETY IN FIRST NATIONS COMMUNITIES




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By Cori Marshall

WaterToday has taken a look at federal funding aimed at improving fire safety in First Nations communities. These government dollars do not cover the entire country, in fact, only the ten provinces and the Yukon are covered by the programs administered by Indigenous Services Canada (ISC). The government of the Northwest Territories is responsible for providing funding for Fire Safety for the communities within their jurisdiction.

WaterToday communicated with Jay Boast, Communications Advisor for Municipal and Community Affairs.

Boast explained that the Northwest Territories government does "not fund communities specific to fire prevention, communities fund these activities out of the Operations and Maintenance funding and their Community Public Infrastructure funding that they receive from [the department of] Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA)."

"Since 2001, MACA has provided block funding for Operations and Maintenance (O&M) to community governments with the expectation that they would provide community fire protection out of that," Boast said. He added that "since 2007, communities have received formula funding for infrastructure." It is up to the government of each community to prepare "a capital investment plan to prioritize and plan for the replacement of infrastructure, including fire halls, fire trucks, breathing apparatus and other capital expenditures," Boast said.

Boast informed WaterToday that "all 33 [First Nation] community governments in the Northwest Territories receive core funding for both O&M as well as community infrastructure funding from the government of the Northwest Territories."

"MACA delivers and/or coordinates with the College of the Rockies for training for fighters," Boast said. The department also supports "the annual Fire Chiefs conference and training events."

Funding for trucks and fire halls is not the only way of ensuring fire protection in a community. Apart from trucks and fire halls, a community needs equipment, hoses, radios, and helmets.

We asked if a community needs funding to acquire the necessary gear, what process do they follow and what role does the government play? "The primary mechanism is to identify funding through their business planning processes," Boast said. He added that community governments "can if they wish, seek assistance through their MACA regional office in these budgeting and capital planning exercises."

Beyond its own financing programs, MACA shares federal funding information. "In some cases, MACA delivers the implementation of some federal infrastructure funding," Boast said. "In those cases, MACA not only identifies the opportunity but can assist the community government in developing an application for the funding opportunity."

    "MACA also assists community governments in completing assessments of their fire departments to help identify gaps in equipment, training, bylaws or other items, and then assists in creating an action plan to [address] any gaps identified."

    Jay Boast, Communications Advisor for Municipal and Community Affairs.

We asked about regional differences and if there are regions that receive more funding than others. Boast responded, "all funding is allocated based on a formula approach." "In 2014, MACA worked with community government stakeholders to create a needs-based model to determine whether funding was adequate and distributed in a fair and equitable manner," he said. "this work identified that there was a funding gap in both O&M and Community Partnership Initiatives (CPI) funding in order to meet core needs of community governments."

    "MACA is currently developing a strategy on how to address this funding shortfall and will be bringing that strategy forward to the Legislative Assembly in the spring of 2019."

    Jay Boast, Communications Advisor for Municipal and Community Affairs.

Despite the funding shortfall, MACA believes "that there have been improvements, but now through the community fire assessments, MACA can support measuring progress in a community." Boast explained that "even once [the funding gap] has been addressed community governments will continue to have many pressures on how to best allocate their resources." He admitted that "additional funding and support to ensure a minimum level of fire safety would, of course, be beneficial to communities."

cori.marshall@watertoday.ca






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